Monthly Channel Chat - June 2021
Catching A Good Time
Hello River Lover,
The month of June is a great month to talk about fishing! Iowa's Free Fishing weekend is June 4-6 and is a great opportunity to try something new if you've never fished before. One of our board members, Katie Goff, interviewed fishing experts and wrote the rest of this Channel Chat. Enjoy!
Amy and Jordan fish from a pier at Banner Lakes Park
When Beau tossed their line in at Banner Lakes State Park on a chilly April morning, they didn’t know what the day would bring, but they did know they were going to catch a good time.
Fishing in Iowa is a popular outdoor recreational activity enjoyed on lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Like many other recreational activities, fishing saw an increase of participation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.. “Fishing is a great activity to get outside with friends,” says Beau, who has been fishing for the past several years. “It’s pretty accessible for most people, a fairly cheap hobby, and it’s great for your mental health too.” Beau started fishing with their dad as a kid but picked it up again as an adult to get outside and enjoy Iowa’s outdoor spaces. “There’s a good sense of community when you’re out fishing, it’s welcoming. People reach out when you pass each other and ask, ‘Catch anything today?’ and that just breaks the ice to get conversation going.” Fishing really embodies social distancing, even before it was required due to the pandemic. You can be out with friends but still maintain that distance. “It can also be a great activity for people who are not very social, like you can be together but still alone.” Beau says.
When I think of fishing I often think of curmudgeonly grandpas or dads out at the crack of dawn, but Beau feels like there is a good diversification in the fishing community. Beau, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, says they have seen an increase in LGBTQ and BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) folks out fishing and enjoying being part of this community. “People are pretty friendly and eager to share their experiences, it feels welcoming.”
Beau likes to fish in the lakes, rivers, and streams around the Des Moines area mostly. They commonly catch bluegill but their favorite fish to catch is a “Big Ol’ Bass”.
Tyler Stubbs, a community fishing biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) was kind enough to offer some more information on fishing in Iowa.
What are some common fish to catch in Iowa?: It varies on location, for example we have cold-water trout streams in NE Iowa that are very popular but also many different kinds of fish in all of our lakes and rivers. Common types would be walleye, bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish.
Iowa Community Fisheries. Click on map for interactive IDNR website.
How do you go about fishing in Iowa?: First step is getting a license. You can pick one up on the IDNR website, at sporting good stores, WalMart, or bait shops. You don’t need a license if you’re under 16. The Go Outdoors Iowa app is another place you can purchase a license and do it from your phone. After getting your license, find a location you want to explore. The IDNR has lots of information on spots and stocking that they do periodically.
What’s been your favorite fishing experience on an Iowa River?: My grandfather used to take me fishing on the Raccoon River near Scranton in Greene County. We would use worms and stink bait and fish from the shore. I really enjoyed this time spent with my grandfather.
Do you eat the fish you catch?: Yes. Fish around the state are tested each year for potential contaminates and a list of fish consumption advisories can be found on the IDNR website.
What do you want people to know about fishing in Iowa?: Fishing is for everyone! There are lots of opportunities to participate throughout the state from places like downtown Des Moines to all kinds of rural areas. It’s a fairly affordable, accessible sport. It’s great for brining families together. You don’t need a boat, and don’t need fancy equipment to be highly successful.
How can Iowans who are passionate about fishing help protect and conserve fishing spots in Iowa?: Make sure to buy a fishing license – the money goes towards fishing management, hatcheries, education, etc. Bring new people into the sport of fishing, or reactivate people who used to fish, get them out and involved in fishing. Pick up what you brought with you – pop cans, bait containers, lures, etc. Fish don’t like trash either.
What are some safety tips for people going out fishing?: Make sure people know where you are going especially if going alone. Bring sunscreen, bug spray, hat, etc., to protect from the sun. If you are going with kids make sure they are wearing a life jacket, even if fishing from shore. If fishing in a boat make sure you are all wearing life jackets. Bring your cellphone.
Two people fish in the Des Moines River during low-flow
How can I find more information about fishing in Iowa?: The Iowa DNR website is the best resource. They have all the information for getting a license regulations, maps and access point locations.
Until next month, stay well
Sara Carmichael, Executive Director